Wake Up From Winter Risotto

The view from 21st Street

I’m writing from my parent’s house in Boulder, CO. Snow has been falling in big, furry flakes today, a few days too late for a White Christmas, but at this rate, perfect timing for a New Year’s Eve White-Out. You’re probably reading this from a similar situation. The roads are blocked all along the East Coast, flights are canceled out of Denver, high winds equal disaster in Southern California, and it’s been raining buckets in San Francisco. Wherever you are, you’re craving something warm and savory and perhaps a little bit zesty to wake you up out of a seasonal lethargy.

It’s rare to eat a food that’s bright magenta. Save for a raspberry smoothie, I can’t think of many dishes that present such aesthetic brilliance to the diner as beet risotto. This dish was sent to me by my dear friend and expert experimental chef Tracy Young, who found the recipe while perusing Epicurious.com.

A note: When I first made the risotto, I was sort of disappointed by the flavor–sort of sweet, definitely creamy, but all in all, semi-bland. But add the horseradish, and the fun starts. Something about the combination of the mild, earthy risotto and the loud tang of a bit of horseradish makes for amazing flavor. Even if it sounds strange, I urge you to try the combo before foregoing horseradish for a fine but ultimately less satisfying dish.

Beet and Beet Green Risotto with Horseradish

From Gourmet Magazine, 1998 (taken from Epicurious.com)

1 small onion
1 pound red beets with greens (about 3 medium)
4 cups water
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup Arborio or long-grain rice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon bottled horseradish

Finely chop onion and trim stems close to tops of beets. Cut greens into 1/4-inch-wide slices and chop stems. Peel beets and cut into fine dice. In a small saucepan bring water to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook onion in butter over moderate heat until softened. Add beets and stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup simmering water and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking at a strong simmer and adding water, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next. After 10 minutes, stir in greens and continue cooking and adding water, about 1/2 cup at a time, in same manner until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 8 minutes more. (There may be water left over.) Remove pan from heat and stir in Parmesan.

Serve risotto topped with horseradish.